Mark Wallace explained on this site over the weekend how the Coalition came to make it a requirement under law that newspapers can be compelled, if they don’t sign up to a Government-approved regulator, to pay the costs of those suing them for libel even if the cases brought against them fail in court. (A answer lies partly with there being no clear majority for press freedom in the Commons, and partly with the then presence in government of the Liberal Democrats.)
Mark argued that Article 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 – the means of setting this iniquity in motion – should not be triggered by Karen Bradley. It is that article which licenses the setting-up of the new regulator.
This morning’s Times reports that the Culture Secretary has opted to take exactly that course. There will no doubt be blowback in Parliament for this decision, and it is also certain that Bradley will not have taken such a decision in a vaccum. Theresa May is already at odds with part of the lobby for no longer spoonfeeding it stories, a break from the practice that began in earnest under Tony Blair and was still being pursued by David Cameron.
The Prime Minister has no desire to have much of the rest of the media on her back over Section 40. And she will remember just how much of a tangle Cameron got himself into over the Leverson inquiry. This is a sensible decision.